“Every creation myth needs a devil.”
The Social Network
Full disclosure: I’ve seen this film several times and like it enough to keep on watching it over again. As I am apparently constitutionally incapable of writing reasonable reviews of things I very much like (see my Les Miserables post, which is basically incoherent word vomit), I suspect this post is not going to be very much use as a balanced appraisal.
The Social Network is what they call a True Story, which means that it’s vaguely based on real events but embellished to make a better story and thus probably not to be taken as gospel. Put simply, it’s the story of the founding of Facebook.
(There was a time before Facebook? What did people do on the Internet?)
It’s told as a kind of flashback: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is being sued by two different parties for reasons which become clear as the story unfolds, a story pieced together during the course of these lawsuits. And this is interesting, because it means we can never quite trust what we’re being told: there’s probably exaggeration and melodrama on both sides, as well as the fading of memory with time. (“It was four years ago,” points out Zuckerberg at one point.) It’s true that the frequent and rapid switching between conference rooms can become a little confusing, but the actual plot is thankfully unaffected.
Which brings me nicely on to one of the things I like most about this film: it asks much of its audience. Being written by the great Aaron Sorkin, of West Wing fame, it’s fast-paced and clever: characters deliver witty one-liners at breakneck speed, launch into breathless discussions of coding problems, argue about legal technicality. These guys are, after all, geniuses. And the cleverest thing about all this is how Sorkin and director David Finch have managed to forge from the raw ore of business deals, programming and petty college squabbles (none of which are exactly photogenic subjects) a very touching, very human tale of success and betrayal. Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as Zuckerberg, awkward and brilliant, and Andrew Garfield is nicely charismatic as Eduardo Saverin, the guy with the money.
It’s a film that raises some interesting questions: what do we do with this new technology that’s so unprecedented? Where’s our privacy when everything online is “written in ink, not pencil”, as one of the characters puts it? And how good a thing is Facebook, really? There aren’t any answers, really, not yet, because this story is still being written. But it’s still important to raise them, and The Social Network does that well.